Faces of Jesus: Under the Overpass

Two Days After Lying To Jesse

I’m on my way to Grandma’s, and I get to the turn where I can choose to take the highway or meander through town. Wanting to be open to God’s leading, I ask, “Which way?”

Feels like God says, Through town.

And then as I start to go through town, Under the overpass.

So I make that turn, drive by the dilapidated buildings, the auto repair shops that have seen better days, the concrete walls in need of paint, and I spy a lone figure sitting with his back to the support beam of the bridge.

Stop.

“Already on it.”

I pull into the nearest parking lot and grab ten dollars: five from the driver’s side visor above the steering wheel, and five more from within my hat. How ’bout that, Dave? You just stuffed these bills into place today. Now God’s giving you another chance.

Yup. Hope I don’t blow it.

I cross the street carefully, scanning both for cars and for other people, wanting to make sure this guy’s alone.

He is.

“Hi,” I say, stepping up on the sidewalk.

“Hi,” he answers. His voice is older than mine. Gruffer. It’s a smoker’s voice. His clothes are not all the same color, yet they have the same weathered look. The dirt stain on them is consistent. “What’s up?”

I’m about three feet from him. I notice his shoes are frayed and he keeps his hands tucked up inside his jacket pockets. I wonder how cracked his skin has become. You’re about to find out.

“Well,” I say, checking again to make sure we’re alone. “I was wondering if you could use ten bucks.”

“Could I?” he laughs.

I hand it to him. Thick hands. Large knuckles. Back into his pockets.

“Thank you. I was just wondering how I was going to eat tonight.”

“You’re welcome.” I squat down next to him. “I’m Dave.”

“Jack,” he says, and we shake again. “You live around here?”

“Yeah. Do you?”

“Right here,” he points down, and then around the corner of the bridge to a space between it and a fence. Besides his broken chair, his possessions consist of a rusted red bike, a thrown away cooler, and a big tin bucket. There’s a slab of cardboard laying about, but I’m not convinced it’s his.

Next to the bridge, on the other side of the chain-link fence, lays a large open grass field. The concrete underneath us seems more than an unfair exchange for the soft ground surrounded by Private Property, No Trespassing signs. This life’s not about ‘fair.’ The metal bars behind me tell me that as well. Jack and I talk briefly of how the city ruined the overpass as a shelter by putting up the metal bars to discourage a homeless camp. “My daughter calls it the cage,” I say sympathetically.

“This city has no heart,” Jack spits.

The sun is setting around us, changing the light to that golden hue, setting behind a steeple and a cross on the other side of the grassy field.

A train rumbles by, interrupting our ability to talk as it echoes off the underside of the overpass.

And I think of my trumpet.

“You like music, Jack?”

“Yeah, I like music.”

“I’m thinking with the acoustics under here, I’d like to come play. Would that be all right with you?”

“Sure.”

“All right,” I stand. “I’ll be back sometime.”

“I’ll be here.”

When I arrive back home, I grab another five dollars and a scrap piece of paper. I stuff them both inside my hat to make sure they’ll fit. They do. Then I pull the paper out again, and on it, from memory, I write the words Paul wrote: “Remember the poor, as I have been eager to do.”

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